On Black Friday, my father and I headed to the Jamaica fishing boat in Brielle, New Jersey. He told me to set my alarm for 2AM, but of course, I was awoken at 1:30AM by him tromping around downstairs preparing for the adventure. It didn’t matter much to me, what’s the difference between 1:30AM and 2AM…it was going to be a long day. We loaded the truck, dressed in our gear, and left at 2AM on the nose. I think we ended up at the boat around 3:30AM, which my father concluded was “probably a little too early” since the boat was scheduled to depart at 5AM. We loaded our stuff on the boat and picked out what turned out to be a great spot for the both of us and watching our fellow fishermen sleepwalk into the boat, pursuing a blurry dream of big fish and adventure.
An old man traveling solo was having difficulty removing a patch for seasickness from its wrapper and was unsuccessfully soliciting help from the crew.. I offered him a hand and quickly removed the patch for him, but then he needed help applying it to him. At this moment I gave pause and asked where the patch needed to go. Fortunately, he just wanted it behind his old ear and I pressed it on like I was touching a hot stove and received a warm “thank you” from the man. One thing I’ve learned in my life that is that it’s great to be a nice guy, but sometimes it can really backfire on you. Like giving a homeless guy some change and him calling you an asshole for not giving him at least a dollar. I was fearful that this guy might need more assistance throughout the trip and I’d become his go to guy, these fears were unwarranted though and he kept to the back corner of the boat content to fish alone.
At 4:45AM the captain began roll call (By the way, why is roll call called roll call? According to phrases.org, its origin is from the long scripts that were rolled up on a long sheet of paper, like a scroll…our captain did not have our names on a long rolled up scroll, he did more of a clipboard call). My father ordered us a bunk for the trip out, we went down stairs into the belly of the boat and picked out a clean and basic bunks and closed our eyes. The engines were so loud it was impossible to be bothered by anyone who may have been snoring or talking, I was too tired to be bothered by the engines, I was thankful for the bunk. It seemed like I was asleep for ten minutes, but who knows how long it was, but I awoke to the sound of engines slowing down and lights coming on, I popped up and headed for the deck.
You grabbed your rod, hooked up pieces of clam for bait, and drop it down 100 feet into a perilous ship wreck. You can feel the line bouncing in and out of debris, fish darting out from the wreck to tap your bait, and as the boat rolled over the waves, your rod yanked the heavy weight from the bottom causing your rod to bend as the weight was lifted off the bottom. As your line drifting in and out of tangled ship debris, you’d feel short taps on your line, the first one would be real quick, like a fish pinching your bait and immediately letting go, the second tap was two quick pinches and then release, you waited for the fish to get greedy and grab onto the bait, put their weight into it, at that point you would violently jerk your rod up and try to slam that hook deep into the fish’s mouth. My average rate of successfully hooking a fish was worse than Ryan Howard’s batting average in the playoffs. I was constantly ripping the rod up trying to hook onto something, the fish must have been startled to see a huge sinker and clam fly 2 or 3 feet up of the bottom after they took a nibble.
The whole day we were bumping our lines into fish and ended up catching at least a couple dozen. The fish were mostly cod, ling, sea bass, and dogfish (sand sharks). This made 14 hours on the boat pass in an instant, it was a lot of fun trying to keep pace with my father and talk a little trash when I’d catch something a little bigger. Ultimately, he caught the biggest fish between the two of us, a fat slimey ling that had definitely been living the good life at the ocean’s bottom.
I consider myself a fairly capable fisherman, but was very appreciative of the crew/mates on the boat, my father as well. Without their help, it definitely would have been frustrating at some points when my line got snagged, a new rig was required, or a hook was far inside a fish’s mouth that had vicious looking teeth. The weather was beautiful, it was my favorite Black Friday so far.